UN's refugee agency worried about xenophobia in Hungary

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The United Nations refugee agency said Friday it was worried about "growing expressions of xenophobia in Hungary" and about government efforts to portray refugees as a threat to the country.

Montserrat Feixas Vihe, the UNHCR's regional representative for Central Europe, said concerns included "the way the government increasingly vilifies people who have fled from war, ones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been advocating extremely restrictive immigration policies and is sending out a questionnaire on migration issues to Hungarians that links migration with terrorism and contrasts support for migrants with that for Hungarian families.

In his introduction to the survey, Orban says Hungary won't allow "subsistence migrants to threaten" the jobs and living standards of Hungarians.

The UNHCR said the government's questions "intentionally attempt to confuse refugees and asylum seekers with so-called 'economic migrants' and wrongly blame refugees for a number of purported threats to Hungary and Europe."

Over the past few months, Hungary, a member of the 28-nation European Union, has seen a huge jump in the number of arriving asylum seekers. Most quickly move on to Western Europe.

Orban said Friday he supported improving conditions in the migrants' countries of origin and said the EU should allow member countries to set their own immigration rules.

"We have to impede the refugees ... from starting their journey toward Europe," Orban said on state radio. "They set off because they think they will achieve a better life in Europe. We have to help them to think that they can have a worthy life at home, too."

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